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Those of us who use sugar on a daily basis are probably familiar with the different varieties of sugar and the respective ways of utilizing them (depending on the situation). While sugar is originally derived from sugar cane/sugar beet, the most common type, granulated sugar, can appear very different in your local grocery store, according to Difference Between.
The colors and textures of different types of sugar can affect flavor and usage, and different levels of processing and refining can lead to everything from super fine to powdered varieties of sugar. These types of sugar give bakers and chefs the ability to sweeten their food and drink in many different ways. Sugar is also available in a cube shape, or in other words, in the form of sugar cubes.
When you think of sugar cubes, you might imagine a posh English tea party or feeding horses a sweet treat. Boxed varieties of sugar cubes include individual pieces that are formed by packing sugar into cubes and air drying them (via Cook’s Info).
Refined white sugar is typically used to make sugar cubes. The white sugar is mixed with liquid sugar to keep the granules together. Other types of sugar are also used to make sugar cubes. There are advantages to using cubes of sugar to sweeten things, and making them is often fairly easy. But is the effort worth the risk?
What is the origin of sugar cubes?
Sugar has been sold as a sculpted cube shape for hundreds of years, according to Saveur. In Victorian times, sugar was sold as a solid loaf which would then be plucked with a pair of "sugar nippers," which are essentially pliers for hunks of sugar. To remedy this messy, sometimes painful, process, a solution was manufactured by Jakub Krystof Rad, a Moravian sugar refinery director (via The New York Times).
His solution was to press the sugar into square molds that would harden, thus making them easier to retrieve and use. This process was further refined by making the cubes out of molten sugar that, when hardened, would be sawed into smaller pieces. This process eventually became the patent that was shared across the world, particularly in England.
Compacted sugar has also been a signal of status historically. Aristocrats during the Renaissance commissioned large sugar sculptures called trionfi for their banquet tables. They could afford sugar, which was expensive and often refined by slave labor.
Nowadays, sugar is not only a common item but refining it can take many forms and flavors, simply through adjustments in the cleaning, crystallizing, and drying of sugar (via The Sugar Association). And while some types of sugar are primarily used by professionals in the food industry, sugar cubes are easy to come by.
What can you even use them for?
The beauty of sugar cubes is that they’re particularly great for hot drinks. Due to their rigid form, sugar cubes dissolve from the outside going in, according to Cook’s Info. The best drink for adding sugar cubes is hot tea or coffee, which would otherwise need spoonfuls or packets to sweeten the drink. One sugar cube is equal to half a teaspoon, or about 2 grams of sugar, which ultimately amounts to two sugar packets.
If you only indulge in hot drinks occasionally, there are other drinks in which you can use sugar cubes. For example, a Marasca Fizz combines champagne, maraschino cherry syrup, and bitters-soaked sugar cubes to make a simple yet fun twist on a champagne-centric Shirley Temple.
Absinthe is an additional drink that you can try, as it entails a touch of cold water that is dripped onto a sugar cube. Other uses are as easy as storing food. Sugar is naturally hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture in the air, which is helpful for storing food, whether it’s cheese, bread, cake, cookies, and more (via OHBaby).
Sugar cubes can also be useful for taking care of your body, whether you use them in making a homemade sugar scrub to exfoliate the skin or top a spoonful of medicine with a cube to make taking medicine a bit easier. It’s even a good household cure for helping heal a burnt mouth or tongue (via First for Women).
Where can you even find sugar cubes?
Can you find sugar cubes in a store? The simple answer is yes. Sugar cubes are typically found in the baking section, although this is not universal. Online marketplaces such as Amazon are can be used to order almost anything.
Additionally, online vendors are sometimes more reliable in a time when supply chain issues might make it more difficult to stock brick-and-mortar store locations. This is even more apparent for variations on sugar cubes, such as even organic versions or alternate flavors like Indian brown sugar (via Whole Foods).
There are also a wealth of small businesses that handcraft sugar cubes to cater to a more artisan route when it comes to this product. Independent sellers who use artisan-based online marketplaces like Etsy can showcase handcrafted sugar cubes and sell them in a variety of sizes, colors, flavors, and shapes, fulfilling the requests of any and all niche needs.
There are plenty of methods of buying sugar cubes, both in person and online, to help you find what you’re looking for in terms of sugar cubes. The choice is simply to decide which method to use to order your sugar cubes.
How easy is it to make sugar cubes?
The recipe for making sugar cubes couldn’t be more simple. The measurements depend on the amount you’re looking to make, but essentially, making sugar cubes involves using sugar, water, and a mold of your choice. Though the ingredients are easy, the techniques and tips involved in making great-looking sugar cubes that stay together are inherently more important to the process.
For example, wetting the sugar makes the cubes more moldable/easier to work with; however, it is advised that you should be careful with the amount of water you use, as too much will make the sugar dissolve, according to Whisked Away Kitchen. This water should also be cold so as to protect it from dissolving even more.
The size of the molds will determine how long the cubes need to dry out, as well as the temperature and humidity of the area. These molds should be packed tightly so as to ensure smooth edges and shapes, but if you do mess up, it is easy enough to start over (via The View from Great Island).
If you’re making flavored or colored sugar cubes, using tools like a food processor to incorporate any additives will help mix in the ingredients while also giving you a smoother, fluffier form of sugar. For the mold, it is best to use a flat surface to ensure the edges are filled: Use a small spoon as well as the tips of your fingers to do so.
The benefits of making your own sugar cubes
There are a few reasons to start making your own sugar cubes, and the first is for "selfish" reasons pertaining to health and self-care. There is a delicate balance between healthy and unhealthy levels of sugar in one’s diet, which is made even more difficult by the packaged food market that often includes additional sugar in the least suspecting products, according to bistroMD.
One way to combat added sugar intake is to monitor it closely. Considering the fact that 67 percent of Americans are trying to cut back on sugar, cubes offer a great way to control your sugar intake. Monitoring sugar intake in this way also allows you to make sugar cubes with your preferred form of sugar, which is helpful for the health-conscious among us.
The process of making sugar cubes is not only easy, but it can also be rewarding. There are plenty of sets of sugar cube molds to choose from on sites like Amazon that make it both easy and fun to personalize your coffee or tea drinking.
Customizing your experience will also save you money and keep you from paying extra each time you go to the cafe. You’ll treat yourself two times over with an at-home treat that doesn’t break the bank.
Should you buy sugar cubes?
One of the leading advantages of buying sugar cubes is convenience. Oftentimes, people who need a daily cup of tea or coffee often have limited time during the day, so it’s easier to buy these essentials on your weekly shopping trip.
Typically, these cubes are packaged to protect them from moisture, which can affect the potency and life of the sugar lumps, according to Texas Real Food. Vaccum-sealed sugar cubes are the best form of packaging for sugar cubes.
Purchasing sugar cubes yourself also can be more hands-off through automatic ordering if you place your order online. Not only that, you can have these delivered conveniently to your home, office, or even to friends who enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.
You can even purchase additional containers to store the cubes and tongs to grab them, as each caters to your kitchen needs while making sure the cubes remain intact. Good quality stainless steel tools should not rust over time, while airtight containers will keep the sugar fresh for the longest amount of time (via Foods Guy).
In addition to hot drinks, store-bought sugar cubes can also be used in cocktails, homemade sugar scrubs, healing tools, etc. If your need surpasses occasional or daily use, it might be tiring to have to make sugar cubes and wait 24 hours before they’re ready to consume.
The pros and cons of buying sugar cubes
The hands-off approach that entails buying boxes of sugar cubes is minutely easier than making them yourself. The task is done, and the product is ready to use whenever. However, the risk of potentially eating something with artificial sweeteners, or poor-quality ingredients, is much higher when you purchase them rather than making them at home, according to Trust Foods. If you make sugar cubes at home, you can control what goes in them and monitor any flavor or shape adjustments.
Making changes to recipes also leads to a custom product that is personal to you, which is not easily attained with a store-bought box of sugar cubes. If you have a favorite cocktail, such as a champagne cocktail, mojito, old fashioned, etc., you can customize these cubes to give you the sugar you need with new twists, surpassing normal bartending recipes (via Reddit). Making these cubes can also be fun to do if you have the occasional need for one, but if you drink multiple drinks that require a sugar cube, it might be best to consider buying them in bulk.
The final verdict
Our final verdict? Go ahead and make your sugar cubes, but only if you have the time for it! Deciding whether or not to start making your own sugar cubes instead of simply purchasing them depends on an assessment of one’s time and priorities.
If you’ve got the time to make them, and they are not essential to daily tasks, having a beautiful container full of beautiful crystal sugar cubes is great to display in your kitchen. They also make lovely customized gifts for people who can use them in hot drinks and cocktails. According to Kindred Cocktails, several of these cocktails may require muddled sugar that is broken down with liquid.
However, the storage of these sugar cubes is very important, so make sure you look out for airtight containers first. Some suggested storage containers include food-grade plastic buckets, glass jars with sealable lids, and Mylar bags (via Homestratosphere). Canning jars are also a great tool as the seal keeps the moisture out and can easily be stacked and stored in dark corners of your pantry (via TheHomesteadingHippy).